Legitimizations and Paternity
A child is considered legitimate by the court if he is born from a union of a married man and woman. If the parents were not married to each other at the time the child was born, it may become necessary to establish paternity through one or more of the tests available. Paternity concerns the financial liabilities of the father and usually takes the form of child support. It is also important to establish paternity in custody cases. In some cases a man might choose to question the paternity of the child to prove that he is not the father in an attempt to deny paternal obligations. A legal judgment of paternity will entitle the child to receive a portion of the father’s estate or inheritance. The child of a deceased father has a right to survivor’s benefits and Social Security benefits paid by the federal and state governments.

Establishing Paternity
Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the biological father of a child. At one time the medical establishment could determine in only some cases with certainty that a particular man was not the father of a child. The mother of a child needed to use other evidence to prove circumstantially if the man was the father. Today, through DNA testing, it is possible to determine with almost 100% accuracy if the man is the father. It can also determine with 100% accuracy that a specific man is not the father. Once paternity is established, the father must pay support for the child and may have to pay part or all of the pregnancy and child birth expenses. If the man refuses to pay, the court may garnish his wages, seize his property and bank accounts, or even send him to jail.

DNA Testing
Advanced scientific methods such as DNA testing are used in paternity cases. In previous years blood tests were useful up to a certain point but the new test that samples the DNA or genetic material of the child and the supposed father are more accurate in proving or disproving paternity. DNA tests can affirmatively determine paternity with a 99.9% accuracy and can rule out paternity with a 100% accuracy. A paternity case may be filed by either parent. The court will look at all the evidence including the results of the DNA test and testimony of the parties. If the court finds that the evidence is sufficient to show that the alleged father is truly the biological father then paternity will be established.

Father’s Rights
When a man impregnates a woman he has few rights concerning the welfare of the fetus or the child. He does not have the right to stop a woman from getting an abortion. She does not need his consent. She doesn’t even need to notify him if she plans to terminate the pregnancy. If the woman decides to carry the child to term the father may be required to pay child support. If he refuses the court can garnish his wages and seize his property and bank accounts. The father may also be required to pay for the cost of pregnancy and child birth, but he also has the right to seek custody of the child or visitation. If there is any doubt that the child is the man’s, the modern paternity test can determine the paternity of the child with nearly 100% accuracy.

Mother’s Rights
A mother has many rights regarding her pregnancy and regarding the welfare of the child once it is born. She can terminate the pregnancy without notifying the father and without his permission. She can file a paternity suit if he claims that he is not the father of the child. Modern paternity testing can determine with nearly 100% accuracy the paternity of the child. Once paternity is established the father must pay child support. He may have to pay the cost of the pregnancy and child birth. If he refuses the court can garnish his wages, seize his property and take his bank accounts. While the courts tend to give mothers custody, this is not a certainty. The father may file for custody and will probably get at least visitation rights.

Visitation / Custody / Support Rights
In most cases, the mother and father will agree on their rights to custody and visitation. If they can’t agree, then the court will make the decision for them. The court makes custody decisions based upon the best interests of the child. It must be determined if the visits are to be supervised or restricted in any way. If there are no restrictions necessary, then a visitation schedule may be established. Either the parents or the court may decide on a schedule that is fair and reasonable for both the parents and the child, including outlines for phone calls, weekend visits and holidays. Transportation arrangements and travel notices are further issues that may be resolved. The visitation right of grandparents and step-parents may also be addressed.

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     Practice Areas:  

          Family Law

          Adoption

          Child Custody and Visitation